(City win 4-3 on penalties)

THIS is what you call the hollowest of victories.

Yes, City avoided a bullet with a “bonus point” win to kick off the Trophy after shading the penalty shoot-out as Sam Hornby saved Adam Senior’s final kick.

But it was nothing worth celebrating against the youngest Bolton side in the club’s history – and one that had shipped five goals in each of the previous four games.

With an average age of just 19, four of the Wanderers’ team were born in the year that Clayton Donaldson played his first senior game. Another two would have still been in nappies.

It should have been a boot-filling exercise for a strongish Bantams line-up – instead it so nearly became a foot-shooting one against opponents who were 9/1 with the bookies pre-match.

The attendance of 9,062 did not come anywhere near the 20,128 who had watched City at Leeds on the same day 11 years ago.

But it was comfortably the biggest of the round to mark Bolton's first home game since last week's takeover pulled them back from the brink and congestion outside held up the kick-off by 10 minutes.

Bolton opened an extra stand to accommodate the late arrivals, who were still coming in when their side grabbed a shock lead.

Danny Devine, playing the holding role in the midfield five, laid off a poor pass towards Jermaine Anderson.

Dennis Politic grabbed the loose ball, shrugged off the non-challenge from its intended target, before advancing and firing from 25 yards – his shot proving too strong for Sam Hornby’s outstretched left arm and looping into the net to send the roof off the place.

It was Bolton’s first goal at home this season and City’s woes increased with the sight of Jamie Devitt, who had been playing up front with Donaldson, hobbling out of the action.

Every Bolton pass and tackle were cheered enthusiastically as they fought to protect the lead, Jordan Boon heading off the line to deny Tyler French from a corner.

Donaldson, who was booed whenever he got the ball, then set up Jordan Gibson for a first-timer against the foot of the post.

But City, once again employing the 3-5-2 they debuted at Crewe, were hardly imposing themselves against such green opposition.

Bolton were riding the wave of emotion generated by the boisterous crowd and Politic was a whisker away from a second with another long shot.

It was worrying stuff for the knot of 231 travelling fans behind the City goal as their team turned in a soulless display. Contrast that with the rapturous scenes from the rest of the stadium when the half-time whistle blew.

Things had to improve after the break – thankfully they did with an equaliser seven minutes in. Harry Pritchard’s corner was nodded home by Paudie O’Connor, the lack of celebration from the scorer showing that City knew they still had bridges to mend.

Pritchard, one of their better performers, hit the net but saw it ruled out for hand ball before testing keeper Matthew Alexander with another long-range drive.

City were finally imposing themselves as Bolton tired and Pritchard showed quick feet from Jermaine Anderson’s pass to wriggle into the box and rock the near post.

Pritchard and the ineffective Donaldson made way as Bowyer made his final changes, throwing on Zeli Ismail for his first action since that interesting cameo at Bradford (Park Avenue).

Politic’s mazy run into the box cranked up the volume once more, a rousing chorus of “Bolton til I die” inspiring their team to find a second wind.

But City’s chances were mounting up. Alexander did well to deny Ismail and Connor Wood while a sliding Senior smothered Gibson’s fierce drive in front of goal.

O’Connor could not believe he had not grabbed another from a corner as his header flashed wide. There was still time for Jay Fitzmartin, who had only opened his GCSE results last week, to force a save from Hornby before the face-saving shoot-out.

O'Connor was City's only miss in five attempts after Boon had hit the bar for Bolton.

Then Senior, who started with his back to goal before turning into his run-up, fired straight at Hornby's outstretched leg.

A brief flare-up between the Bolton defender and Anderson followed as a relieved City mobbed Hornby for saving them from further discomfort.

Bolton: Alexander 7, Brockbank 7, Zouma 7, Senior 7, Boon 7, Graham 7, Weir 7, Darcy 7, King-Harmes 7 (Fitzmartin 76min), Politic 8 (White 82min), Brown 6 (Brown-Sterling 65min). Subs (not used): Hutchinson, Edmondson, Osigwe, Whalley.

City: Hornby 6, French 6, Richards-Everton 6, P O’Connor 6, Longridge 6, Anderson 6, Devine 5, Devitt n/a (Patrick 18min, 6), Pritchard 7 (Wood 66min), Donaldson 5 (Ismail 63min), Gibson 6. Subs (not used): A O’Connor, Palmer, Akpan, O’Donnell.